Staying in Touch: A Quick Guide

Photo by M.A. McCuen.

Photo by M.A. McCuen.

Long distance is hard. Whether it’s a family member, a friend, or a significant other, it is absolutely grueling to be far away from the people we love. Unfortunately, as I’ve come to discover, adulthood can be a constant state of missing people. Living states away from my sister, my parents, and my best friends means that my heart never quite feels settled and complete. Not to mention my amazing group of online friends, which is, in its own way, a form of long distance friendship. Fall can be a really hard time, as summer ends and a new semester starts, it often means saying good-bye to those you love.

Having spent most of the last seven years of my life away from those I care about, I’ve come to develop some techniques for intentionally staying in touch and caring for those far away from you. 


Become pen pals.

I love writing handwritten letters. During Christmas, I write a flurry of letters to friends and family. But I also try to write letters when it’s not Christmas. Receiving handwritten letters is such a delight and an easy way to make a close friend smile. It can be a nice bridge to get in touch with someone you’ve fallen out of touch with as well. I love picking out stationary to send and have a soft spot for aesthetically pleasing cards with sassy statements on them. A sweet idea could be sneaking a little surprise into a card. While I was away in London over the summer, my boyfriend sent me prints of a bunch of ugly snapchat selfies I’d sent through the year. I honestly could not stop laughing. 


Watch a TV show together.

One of my favorite memories from college was Sunday nights. My sister and I would pick a show, usually Once Upon a Time or Mercy Street, which we would watch together and video chat as we watched it. During commercial breaks, we’d discuss the show and how things were progressing. It made watching the show more enjoyable, as well as helping us have a set time each week when we knew we’d talk to each other. It also kept us chatting throughout the week, sending each other articles and clips about the upcoming episodes.


Start a new hobby together.

Last year, my sister had just started college in DC and was struggling to adjust. I noticed she was adding a lot of pictures of hand embroidery to her Pinterest board. The pictures were so beautiful that it made me want to try it too. I decided to buy us both hand embroidery starter kits and mailed her one as a surprise. For the next few weeks, we sent each other updates about the new stitches we were learning and how our embroideries were coming along. I also have some online friends who are really into bullet journaling. It helps us stay in touch, as we often text each other our new designs and ideas. We always tuck samples of washi tape, fun pens, or stickers into the letters we send each other.


Use literature to keep you together.

My best friend lives on the other side of the country and we primarily stay in touch over books. We subscribe to the same book subscription box, so each month we have the pleasant excuse to debate which books we want to pick and then discuss the books we received. I’ve taken part in a few book exchanges or book “secret santas” through the mail and it can also be a really fun to keep up friendships and give you a common narrative to bond over. One of my favorite ideas, which was shared with me by a bookish friend, is to print favorite short stories and poems to tuck inside letters to friends.


Communicate regularly.

Having clear and consistent communication can be one of the best ways to keep in touch. Setting times that you know are good for both of you to talk can make a huge difference. Video chatting is such a wonder of this decade, so take advantage of it. I always set aside time to talk to my mom on Sunday nights. It’s so nice to know that I have restorative time to look forward to as the new week begins. Especially if you are leaving someone you see regularly, like a sibling or significant other, it’s important to decide together how much you are planning on communicating and what works for your schedule. Obviously, being flexible is imperative, but know that the person you care about will still have a consistent part of your life can be very reassuring.

It will never be easy to be away from someone you love, but there is always something to be gained by venturing out on your own path and allowing those you love to do the same. When you have good communication skills and dedication to the other person, you can overcome distance and keep your relationship strong.

M. A. McCuen is a secondary English literature teacher based in Omaha, Nebraska. Originally from Michigan, she has a BA in English and French from University of Notre Dame and a M.Ed from Creighton University. Having previously lived in France and Ireland, she spends her scant free time plotting ways to travel the world on her teachers salary.